The Jazz Butcher
The Jazz Butcher Press Sun Burns Out
November 09, 2017
Album Review: The Wasted Years
Sun Burns Out The crazy years of the Jazz Butcher or no pity for geniuses (France)
November 09, 2017
Credit: Benjamin Berton

CAUTION - This is a robotic translation of the original French publication

The Wasted Years

Featuring ‘Bath Of Bacon’, ‘A Scandal In Bohemia’, ‘Sex And Travel’ and ‘Distressed Gentlefolk’.

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Fire Records 4xCD
Christmas is coming and here is one of the first beautiful gifts to be made: the reissue of the first four albums of the Jazz Butcher in an impeccable box is the opportunity to dive back into this divine period of the years 1983-86 when the English pop to his zenith digested for a few months punk, post-punk and all the history of rock to re-breathe into eternal and catchy melodies, cultured songs and intelligent, referenced and sparkling. At the heart of this period, of course, was The Smiths, the ultimate quartet, and largest band of the time, from most eras to tell the truth. And then there were others like the Jazz Butcher led by its leader to do everything Pat Fish, a young intellectual, Oxford student, lover of Pynchon and SF, Velvet Underground and black humor. Pat Fish originates, for those interested in such details, from Northampton, the beating heart of England according to Alan Moore (who does not speak about it in his monumental Jerusalem). Pat Fish is a buddy with Max Eider playing the guitar. The two men share, as every time, their desire to fight and give birth quickly (it is in 1983) a first album for the label Glass Records. It will be Bath of Bacon, literally a Ham Bath.

The album is a strange, funny and completely unrestrained thing, a surreal album and carried by a jazz spirit turned towards the night, drunkenness and the loss of landmarks. Bath of Bacon feels endless evenings, girls, alcohol, drugs. It feels like a student party or a club in St. Germain in the 60s. Pat Fish speaks to us directly before embarking on a wild rock and then to poke some beautiful songs. There are nuggets on this album like Party Time, a stripped song that gives a good idea of ​​the songwriter talents of the man and the ease with which Pat Fish composes at the time. The sequence of couplets, musical bridges and melodic ease are already breathtaking. The Jazz Butcher does what he wants. He plays the old-school rock band on Bigfoot Motel, crosses the Atlantic on a wink, becomes punk on Sex Engine Thing before touching the sublime on the incredible Zombie Love. The album ends (or almost) with a song in French, La Mer, which will be worth to the group to attract a little attention in the Hexagon. La Mer evokes Tati and Trenet, it is an endearing oddity and testifies to the complete absence of aesthetic limits of the group and Pat Fish in particular. As long as there is audacity, there is class. This is the moral of the story.

The Jazz Butcher continues on his second album and our favorite, A Scandal in Bohemia, receiving in reinforcement David J, defector of Bauhaus .... The guy consolidates the original group and makes this album a near-total success. From the impeccable Southern Mark Smith (a tribute to The Fall, of course, and his tribal leader) to the rockabilly of Soul Happy Hour or I Need Meat, to the emotion of Just Like Betty Page, or the cross- overdue between Syd Barrett and ... Lou Reed proposed by the unfathomable Mind Like A Playgroup, The Jazz Butcher offers a mix of genres and influences of incredible originality. The band sparkles with ideas and puts them all in application which gives a whole teeming between rock, pop and psychedelism. There are standards here like the unsurpassed Girlfriend, a title that deserved to be an instant hit, talking about girlfriends and love. A Scandal in Bohemia, and the group in general, will suffer from their overflowing talent. The group is reproached for dispersing itself while its genius is precisely to amuse itself at all costs and to leap, without looking twice, into titles that would make the ordinary of any mediocre group. Hard to say if the whole lack of coherence but it is certain that player as it is, Pat Fish is overwhelmed everywhere by groups that seem in the eyes of people (listeners and critics) as more concentrated, serious and determined.

Sex and Travel, their third album, does not say much more than Scandal In Bohemia but does it even better. A little more indie rock and less American than the previous one, the album makes the bet of intelligence and subtlety. Fish gets tired and becomes somewhat cynical. He probably knows at that time that the group will be confined to a modest fame. Nevertheless, he played the pop game of the time, surprisingly making amazing pop titles of balance and grace. Big Saturday is simply beautiful, sinking all the pop efforts of the time. Pat Fish is in a state of grace. There are not many people to compete: the melodies are unstoppable, just beautiful, and the texts of a high quality combining Englishness (Holiday hilariously tells the adventures of an Englishman who goes on holiday abroad ), nostalgia for adolescence and disembodied romances. The Jazz Butcher sometimes looks like a Divine Comedy deprived of its strings: romantic and out of the box. The song of Pat Fish is willingly changed into storyteller. The songs describe significant scenes, charming moments, details of the story. The group maintains throughout its discography a pronounced American tropism that will work for fans of exclusive English pop. It is in these bounding and energetic roots that the Jazz Butcher draws its spring: a little blues and very rock. We can not understand the temporal beauty of Only A Rumor, the most beautiful song on the album, without appreciating the wandering Red Pets that precedes. The Jazz Butcher is an impure band and the rest on each of his records, while The Smiths who are also fed to American rock will succeed in burying this influence in the balance of forces that is established between Morrissey and Marr.

The box closes on Distressed Gentlefolk, an album that has long been misrepresented as the band's major achievement. For the first time, Pat Fish manages to discipline herself and focus from end to end to craft neat and impeccably produced songs. The model is openly the Velvet Underground, in a mid-rock, mid-country version. Suddenly, one gets bored a little at times to the point of regretting the madness of the first times. The album is melancholic, applied, virtuoso often, testifying once again to the ease of Fish and his stooges. It's hard to really get excited about Falling In Love and its archetypal designs. The album has sometimes taken a shot of old but still works remarkably well on his succession of titles punches (Big Bad Thing) and moving moments. We love the ugly and neo-realistic sadness of Still In The Kitchen, but clearly less anachronistic stuff like Hungarian Love Song. The album is light-as-air with songs like Doowop from Who Loves You Now, sad and gently regressive, or the hilarious Domestic Pets, a piece that evokes the sex life of pets. All this is obviously not very serious while being infinitely so. The Jazz Butcher remains a curiosity of history all along. How can a guy who writes Nothing Special, a piece of unmatched elegance, be at the pinnacle of his discipline? It will remain a mystery and a great injustice.

The epic of the Jazz Butcher, which continues for the curious on a dozen albums after those, is one of the most endearing in the history of English rock. The group spends a long time at Creation, before Eider and Fish drown in alcohol and decide to separate for good. Fish recomposes a Butcher with new members and makes the sauce last, in concerts and in the studio, until the mid-90s. After that, he puts an end to the adventure and reinvents himself through Sumosonic, which will not make long fire, and for some years, with Wilson, a group even more discreet and obscure but which counts in its repertoire ... the best songs of the world. Fish celebrated his 60th birthday this year.

The fate of Pat Fish shows that not everyone has succeeded but that there are careers more discreet, less linear (and directed to the top) than others that are just as good. The music of the Jazz Butcher has the flavor of early rock, early emotions, teens hugs and first glasses. It is a music of human warmth, of exaltation, a music that goes from laughter to tears, from the muddy joke to the philosophical projection, from the religious pamphlet to the psychedelic intoxication. It takes a lot of talent to go from cock to donkey and conspire thirty years at this level of excellence.

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